To fill or not to fill a newly created position of recreation leader in the Town of West Seneca overshadowed even the hallowed and long-demanded $30 million proposed sewer-improvement project during Monday night's regular meeting of the Town Board.
Minutes after the board unceremoniously approved a bond resolution to finance the massive three-district sewer project, affecting nearly three-quarters of the town, the atmosphere turned testy. Two board members balked at promoting Sarah C. Flattery from clerk-typist in the Recreation Department to provisional full-time recreation leader, assisting Mary E. Josefiak, the town's director of youth, recreation and senior services.
Flattery was the choice ofJosefiak, who assumed the helm of the three consolidated departments in early 2011 and said she was assured in January by board members that she would get additional help with her new job.
Josefiak, who earns $83,796 a year, estimated that she's working at least 80 hours a week.
"When are you going to take the time to listen to my words and actions?" an exasperated Josefiak publicly asked the board.
Last month, by a 2-1 vote, the board approved the new post of recreation leader. Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan and Councilman Eugene P. Hart voted for the measure. Councilman John M. Rusinski opposed it, saying he needed more information.
Monday, it was Hart who said he needed more information. Rusinski was reticent to fill another full-time post.
The moves left Meegan and Josefiak aggrieved.
"Don't tell me you need more time. I need to plan the summer," a frustrated Josefiak told The Buffalo News during a break in the meeting, adding that her request for help "isn't a new thing" and shouldn't come as a surprise to board members.
Added Meegan: "In fairness to [Josefiak] and the board, five months was more than enough time to make their decision. You can't expect one person to do all that; it's unfair. Mary has done above and beyond not just for her job, but for her community."
But Hart and Rusinski insisted that when taxpayer dollars are on the line, discretion is the better part of valor.
"I need more information to make an informed decision on this," Hart said, adding that he wants a chance to meet Flattery and talk with her and Josefiak about her "scope of duties" and any other departmental needs.
"If the answer is satisfactory, I will vote for it," Hart said. "There were some concerns raised. I feel, in fairness to the taxpayers and the people, I need to go to Recreation and see what's going on."
Rusinski doesn't quibble with Josefiak's work ethic after he took a close look at her department, which consists of Josefiak and four part-time secretaries, but he believes he was put on the board to serve the town as a whole.
"The taxpayers put me in this position, and I have to focus on the issue, not the person," said Rusinski, who remains leery about adding a full-time job to the payroll. "I have nothing but good things to say about [Josefiak]. We will get her help in her position.
"But, I don't see how we create a full-time position without a salary reduction on her part," Rusinski added. "To me, that's not fair to the taxpayer."